The Editing Process

I know a lot of writers who dread the editing process. Just the mere visual of their lovely manuscript being marred by red or purple or yellow is enough to turn their stomachs. Granted, I’ve not always had great experiences editing. I’ve cried, gotten so angry that I’ve wanted to throw things (my computer in particular), or simply just closed my document and walked away because those marks somehow suddenly reflected back on who I was. But I persisted.

Perhaps it’s cliché, but my stories are my babies. They come from a place inside me that I can’t quite explain. I carry them around for a long time before I ever sit in front of my laptop and then labor over them for hours, toiling over certain words and images. To have someone come in and hack apart that work is daunting. It takes trust. A lot of it, in fact.

Yet, when you find that partner who clicks with you, the process is not nearly as scary. I’m lucky that I found that person and that I actually enjoy editing. Which came first? I’m not sure. I do love the process of creation, but I also love the tedium of making it right. I edit my work a lot. A LOT. I go over it again and again and again. Then I go over it again. Then I send it off to my trusted people who point out things that I not only missed–and I’m not just talking missed commas and words–but ask the questions that help me make better links, tying my story together so that I can deliver it with a simple bow.

Some things to consider when working with an editor:

  • Find someone who works with you. I mean that in every sense of the word.
  • You may not always agree and that’s okay.
  • Find someone who can compensate for your weaknesses. That being said, if you know those, tell your editor upfront.
  • Communicate with them. I used to keep secrets about my stories to see if my editor would catch the hidden symbolism. That’s what a prereader is for. Talk to your editor. Tell them about the links you are trying to make so they can help you do so most effectively. Maybe not everything, but the things you really want to be self-evident.
  • Take one comment at a time. With dozens or hundreds of comments to sift through, it can be tempting to walk away. Don’t.
  • Skip some of the harder comments or discussions for later if you are feeling overwhelmed by them. Some need a day or two to marinate before you realize the simplicity of the answer. Sometimes there is no easy answer and a huge rewrite is called for on a section.
  • Don’t rush the process. I know it’s tempting to throw your story at a beta/editor and then quickly make changes just so you can rush to publish/submit. It’s okay to slow down a bit. Because in the end, which is more important? That you have a product or a product you are proud of?
  • Have a friend, one you can go to and say, “OMG, I’m so frustrated about how this story editing is coming.” I found it helps to have a fellow writer be that person, but I use my husband from time to time too.
Editing is part of the writing process, but we have to switch into a different mode than when we write. As you can tell, I don’t think this a job that a writer should divorce themselves from. In fact, I think writers need to embrace it and become comfortable with putting a critical eye to their own work. If for no other reason than to make it better and you a better writer.


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